An Interview with Katie Nicolson: About the Brigance

Michael Shaughnessy, EducationNews.org

1)      Katie, I grew up learning the BRIGANCE in grad school, have used the BRIGANCE in several settings, and now I teach the BRIGANCE. How pervasive IS BRIGANCE in the American Educational System?

BRIGANCE® products are extremely pervasive. As you noted, it’s a product line that educators have been familiar with for several decades (since the 1970s!) – learning it first during undergrad/graduate school, then often using it as a teacher, and if they move onto an administrative role, loving it in that capacity as well. As a result, it’s a brand that is highly recognized in the field (although this isn’t statistically proven, I’d guess 8-9 out of 10 special educators have at one time or another used BRIGANCE, or at least know of it).

In terms of current penetration, BRIGANCE is currently being used in at least one-third of districts nationwide (based on sales over the past five years, so I’d imagine this is even higher given the long life of these products).

2)      Now, a historical question – is Albert Brigance still alive and if so, what is he doing?

No, unfortunately Al passed away in 2007. He lived an extremely good life, the last several decades of which he was settled in Tennessee with his family. He was vibrant, remaining engaged in education until he passed away. Curriculum Associates remains in contact with his family and continues to update them on the success of the BRIGANCE product line.

3)      Could you bring us up to date on some of the NEW BRIGANCE essentials and features?

Of course. We now have three separate BRIGANCE product families:

1.      BRIGANCE® Special Education

2.      BRIGANCE® Early Childhood

3.      BRIGANCE® Head Start

Each of these product families is targeted specifically to the needs of these distinct users.

BRIGANCE Special Education: I’m going to go into a bit more depth on the BRIGANCE Special Education product family, since I believe that’s of particular interest. This product line now includes five assessment inventories, as well as a single comprehensive Online Management System that supports data management and student/class/district-level reporting for all five inventories.

The entire product line has a 2010 copyright and was redesigned this past year to ensure a modern, four-color design, and an even more user-friendly organization to support teachers in implementing these assessments in the classroom. The fundamentals of what users have loved for years remain – criterion-referenced and norm-referenced assessment to support identification of students’ strengths and needs, instructional planning and IEP writing (including an instructional objective tied to every assessment), and support for monitoring student progress.

Specifically, the five current BRIGANCE inventories and key updates include:

·         Inventory of Early Development II (IED II): The criterion-referenced IED II offers developmental assessment for students functioning up to developmental age 7. In addition to the general updates noted above, this inventory was reorganized for greater ease of use and better alignment with IDEA skill area guidelines. Additional assessments were also added in the area of early literacy skills (e.g., phonological awareness).

·         IED II Standardized: This inventory provides norm-referenced assessment for children age birth up to age 7. This edition of the IED II Standardized benefits from the new user-friendly design of the entire BRIGANCE product line.

·         Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills II (CIBS II): The criterion-referenced CIBS II offers academic assessment for pre-K to grade 9 skill levels; this inventory was significantly revised in late 2009 with major content additions. Specific changes/additions include:

o   Separate Reading/English Language Arts and Mathematics inventories to accommodate more content in each subject area.

o   The Reading/ELA inventory has many of the same great assessments and grade-placement tests that users loved in the CIBS-R, but it also now includes both short and long passages for reading comprehension assessment (there was an entirely new section added on Reading Comprehension – Long Passages). In addition, it now includes a set of assessments on Responding to Writing Prompts. These content additions focus on addressing important topics covered in key content standards frameworks.

o   The Mathematics inventory was developed to more broadly address key math skills. The CIBS II Mathematics is in fact organized by the NCTM Focal Points; this inventory includes sections on Numbers and Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis and Probability. The mathematics grade-placement tests were also expanded to ensure teachers have the support they need to determine a student’s current grade-level performance.

·         CIBS II Standardized: This inventory provides norm-referenced assessment for children age 5-12 years. Prior to its restandardization, assessments were revised to ensure up-to-date content. A 2010 standardization and validation study demonstrates the strong reliability and validity of these assessments.

·         Transition Skills Inventory (TSI): Published in 2010, this new inventory incorporates assessment of independent living, employment, and other post-secondary skills to support transition planning for middle and high school students. The TSI offers assessments across a broad range of skills to ensure comprehensive coverage of key transition skill areas including functional academic skills, job-related knowledge and skills, communication and technology skills, various independent living skills/knowledge (e.g., food, clothing, housing, money/finance, health), and community participation skills. Customizable objectives are included with each assessment to support the writing of annual goals and objectives for students’ transition plans.

Together, these inventories support the full range of developmental levels from birth through high school, covering developmental, academic, and transition skills assessment. In addition, all five inventories are supported by a single Online Management System. This system offers 24/7 secure online access to assessment data for a class, school, or entire district.

Group reports make it easy to aggregate data across students to, for example, monitor class or school progress. At the individual student level, teachers can monitor student progress and find customizable goals and objectives based on the student’s assessment results (a great resource to support IEP writing). Additional reports, instructional planning tools, and family communication resources are also included in the BRIGANCE Online Management System.

BRIGANCE Early Childhood and BRIGANCE Head Start: These two product families include developmental screening, ongoing assessment, and developmentally appropriate instruction, as well as comprehensive Online Management Systems that integrate all of these components. Each is tailored to the specific needs of the users (e.g., general early childhood or Head Start programs). I am happy to go into more detail about the Early Childhood and Head Start products at a later time, as I know you’re particularly interested in focusing this interview on the Special Education family of products.

4)      I believe the goals and objectives from BRIGANCE inventories are now on disk. Am I correct on this?

Actually, we’ve now put all of the goals and objectives from each of the inventories online. Within the BRIGANCE Online Management System, there is a full library of goals and objectives from each of the five inventories. There is also a student report that provides a customizable list of goals and objectives for that specific student based on his or her assessment results. These goals and objectives can be customized in the system, as well as downloaded to support IEP writing.

5)      Now, on to some tough questions – who essentially chooses to use or not use BRIGANCE products in the schools? Is it the parent, the school, the special ed director, the special ed teacher, diagnostician, school psychologist? Or is it a big administrative decision?

For the BRIGANCE Special Education inventories, the decision is usually at the special education director (or coordinator) level. Often there is a group of special education administrators (and sometimes several teachers and school psychologists/specialists as well) who will review the product together to come to a decision, but it’s generally a district-level decision within the special education department. We do also see some smaller purchases made directly by school psychologists and diagnosticians. And there are those teachers that just love the product, so they’ll purchase BRIGANCE inventories themselves for their classrooms.

6)      WHO would you say is BRIGANCE really for? Children with mental retardation or autism, or visually impaired, or hearing impaired?

The BRIGANCE Special Education inventories support a broad range of developmental levels and disabilities. We’ve included within the introduction of each inventory a section on how to work with students with various disabilities and that’s because there is no specific population for which BRIGANCE products were designed. The criterion-referenced inventories in particular (IED II, CIBS II, and Transition Skills Inventory) really can be adapted for a number of student needs to ensure strong assessment results regardless of the student’s developmental needs.

7)      Do you guys who work with BRIGANCE have a certain language preference? I am thinking here of developmental delay, versus cognitive impairment versus mental retardation? ( And I have to tell you it is hard to keep up with all these changes- I have even heard of SLIC ( Significantly Limited Intellectual Capacity being used instead of mental retardation !)

You’re completely right that it’s hard to keep up with the changes. The reality is that every state uses slightly different language (and this doesn’t remain consistent over time), so we try to understand the terms used by the customers that we’re working with and customize our language to whatever they are accustomed to.

8)      Now, what kinds of online training materials do you have, and what kinds of support do you have for school systems?

Curriculum Associates hosts online trainings for each of its key product lines, including BRIGANCE. We have a section on our website for professional development (www.CA101.com). There is a series of online training videos that live here for the BRIGANCE Special Education product family, including an overview of the full product line, product specific trainings (focused on both the criterion-referenced and norm-referenced inventories), and an online demo of the Online Management System. We’ve found customers really love these online trainings because they are available to them 24/7 and they’re free!

In addition to our online trainings, we also offer onsite training sessions and live webinar trainings for customers. If a district purchases BRIGANCE products and is interested in trainings for their teachers and/or administrators, they can speak with our team, who will discuss various training options with them and determine the best training plan to put into action.

Finally, we have ongoing technical support for users of the BRIGANCE inventories. Our technical support team is available by phone at 800-225-0248 to discuss any questions that may arise in working with BRIGANCE. For the more difficult questions, we have product experts on hand who can discuss these issues with the customer to ensure they get the information they need.

9)      Some schools want to practice full inclusion, and do not use BRIGANCE at all – are they making a mistake? And is there any legal ramification for NOT using BRIGANCE inventories?

Even students in full inclusion classrooms need IEPs if they are receiving special education services. BRIGANCE assessments will allow teachers to pinpoint those students’ specific strengths and needs to support the writing of goals and objectives for IEPs, as well as help teachers target instructional support for their students.

10)  Suppose a parent insisted on BRIGANCE, and the school system refused – any legal options?

Such a situation would remain an issue between the parent and the school district. To our knowledge, there are no legal obligations; however, we would leave this to the district and family to work out a solution.

11)  Has interest in and use of BRIGANCE, increased, decreased or stayed the same?

I would say interest has actually increased somewhat considerably in the last couple of years, given the launch of the new inventories in late 2009/early 2010. In fact, we’ve seen substantial growth in sales since the latest additions were introduced.

As we’ve discussed, the entire family of products was relaunched within the last year and a half and has a copyright of 2010 – having all of the inventories be new at the same time has certainly drummed up interest from long-time users. And it’s been really nice to see that the 2010 editions not only appeal to these long-time users, but have also helped convert a new generation of users given the comprehensive, cohesive family of products and more modern design of the product line.

In addition, the ongoing need to address reporting requirements tied to IDEA, including the writing of IEPs and transition plans, continues to ensure the relevance of BRIGANCE assessments in our schools. District administrators and teachers continue to benefit from having a comprehensive, user-friendly family of assessments that can support them in meeting their requirements and working effectively with their students, so I think there’s a continued (and in some cases, new) recognition of the value of BRIGANCE products for this reason.

12)  What have I neglected to ask?

I think you covered a great breadth of topics!

Michael F. Shaughnessy is the Senior Columnist for EducationNews.org.

Used with the permission of EducationNews.org

Your comments